Along with a new wave of Irish independent film a new talent started to bloom. Emma Eliza Regan has been part of a number of our recent favorite independent films from Ireland, including "Tin Can Man" which made our top #2 back in 2012. Acting might not have been the goal growing up and discovered in late teens, but she shows as much passion and maturity as someone who has been in the field for decades. It's with pleasure we finally publish this interview with her.
First of all, thank you for wanting to do an interview with us. As you're a relatively new name in the industry, especially internationally, we want to go back a bit. What originally got you started in acting?
I had a desperate need to communicate, and I think acting was a really good discovery for me because I just had that expression inside me. It's hard to put a distinctive point of when I knew, because I was never one of these girls who grew up wanting to be a movie star, I got a really strong education and for me it was after school in my late teens where the opportunities came along and I went with them all. There was some significant steps, I was originally dedicated to training as a ballet dancer, and even up until 2011 I was touring as a dancer while auditioning and acting. I think with the Irish success of "The Fading Light" in JDIFF in 2010 I signed to an agency, I was acting on stage in the National Theatre six nights a week and was also busy working on a TV series with RTE so I sort of realised this was a profession I was not only passionate about, but it was also something I had opportunities in if I was dedicated myself to it. It co-coincided with a huge wave of indie film making in Ireland and the establishment of The Factory so I just kept preserving and working hard.
You've been in 3 films by director Ivan Kavanagh - how did you guys get to know each other?
It was pre-Facebook and pre-twitter, and I was interested so I used to go to buy Film Ireland publication to read what was happening in the Irish Film Industry and just have a better knowledge on different film makers and productions that were happening. I came across a really interesting interview at the back of the magazine with Ivan Kavanagh and he mentioned his method of film making and that he was in pre-production for his next feature film, so I just put two and two together and chanced that he might be casting! It was me who e-mailed him initially expressing an interest in meeting and I got offered the role about a month after that in "Tin Can Man".
Being a huge fan of the soon-to-be-released "Tin Can Man", I have to ask about it. The film is really unnerving, but how was your experience on shooting it being as young as 17 years old?
It was a great set to be on, probably the most easy going yet dedicated set ever. There was no crew - just Ivan - who I remember holding a light, the cinematographer and the few actors, nobody else, so it was all just down to instincts and performance. None of the frills which usually make sets stressy. We did our own make up and had cup of tea together after. I had detailed notes on my character but it was improvised, and shot in a mobile home in a field in Ireland over a weekend sometime in March.
The other two films by Kavanagh, "Our Wonderful Home" and "The Fading Light", are very different from "Tin Can Man". Did this change the atmosphere on set?
Yes, I guess every film set tends to take on an atmosphere of its own and that is down to many different factors - everything from the personalities, the budget, the country we are shooting in, the weather. Ivan is very consistent in the way he directs so I think the main difference was that we had the support of The Irish Film Board for "Our Wonderful Home" & "The Fading Light". In "The Fading Light", that intensity and bleakness of my role sort of followed me around on set, I remember the house was cold, I wasn't eating much and it snowed for days, but in a way it really worked for our performances and we all bonded like a real family.
With "Aisling's Diary" being an Irish drama show, I can imagine it being more known in Ireland than internationally. What can you tell us about it, and your time on the show?
I loved working on that, I played this cute nerdy girl, and the cast were a cool group of teens shooting by a beach all summer. I had come from this hardcore guerilla film making experience, so it was just a novelty for me to be making all this money and having a driver, and make up artists and costume girls and all this crew around. It was actually a huge success, there was an "Aisling's Diary" book released, had a really popular Bebo page, it got unsigned bands for the soundtrack and it sold internationally to ABC Australia & SVT in Sweden, as well as winning IFTAs, being awarded in Cannes and won best international teen TV movie at Kidscreen Awards in New York.
Your choices of film seem to have been isolated, mostly, to drama and horror (with a few exceptions). Is there a reason, as in them being your favourite genres, or has it simply been a case of you getting those gigs?
I am very open to all genres, for me it's always down to how I respond to the director, how I respond to the script or if I can bring something unique and personal to the role that works. I'm considered dark and mysterious by casting, I play really young roles but I am quite old in my way of thinking, I can be very silent and sad and strange so I guess that lends itself more to these films rather than comedies etc., a lot of the time the casting directors come to me when they need a teenage girl with the maturity to handle dark roles. Whatever the film is, it really is just about being in the right environment with the right people. Something that's emotional or honest always just comes easy and feels right. Usually if something doesn't really feel right, it's because there is something false about it or something I am not truly connecting to, and anything fake is a big turn off for me. I would happily do dark indies forever. I am proud of all the directors I have worked with.
I had the pleasure to see the upcoming fantasy flick "The Shadows", by yet another fascinating director (Colin Downey), a while back and the closest reference for me would be the fantasy films I grew up on. It's equally easy for an adult to enjoy this one, however. What changed in how you decided to depict your character, Alice, when you were making something so very different?
Colin is one of the most imaginative and creative people I know, when I met him to discuss the role, it was clear he wanted Alice to symbolise purity and be this otherworldly beauty, in a very gentle way,and for her to be this poetic light encouraging Matthew and providing him with moral strength. As an actress I was really interested in the story, I have been reading fairy tales all my life and they have always been for me dramatic representations of complex psychological processes, and for gaining insights and learning about our basic human tendencies. The Shadows for me carries valuable statements in symbolic form about human nature, and I thought Alice represented something we are missing in the world right now - honesty. Whereas I found the witch and the huntsmen were at metaphor of selfishness, greed and vanity, and Matthew is just this lost boy trying to figure his way and grow as a person. Fairytales have always offered these very moral solutions to very timeless human issues, ultimately leading to transformation and more fulfilling lives, and I was keen to express that guidance in my portrayal of Alice.
What can you tell us about "Love Eternal"?
"Love Eternal" will be released in cinemas this summer, it is an adaptation of the Japanese novel, "In Love with the Dead", by the acclaimed author Kei Oishi, we shot my scenes in Luxembourg in late 2012. Robert De Hoog plays the main role Ian, an isolated and damaged young man with an obsession with death, and despite dealing with necrophilia - the film has got this enigmatic and otherworldly fairytale tone throughout, for me it's this very honest portrayal of loneliness, and love gone wrong, and human struggle with communication.. Necrophilia is obviously a disturbing and incredibly dark subject, but the film is more about loneliness and affection rather than sex, and the way the scenes are handled is just so vulnerable and truthful. Pollyanna McIntosh and Amanda Ryan are both brilliant in it.
I got to see several Irish independent films and most of them were very interesting. What's your opinion on the Irish film industry as a whole, and do you think the independent industry has grown as of late?
I think there’s a huge energy in Ireland right now with a wave of young, interesting talents on their way up, I have huge admiration for young directors like Ger Barrett and Patrick Ryan who had the guts and vision to go out and make their début features without any budget or any real production company backing them. In terms of short films I am so clearly proud of Randal Plunkett and his success on "Out There", and I know he will go on to do great films, and Shimmy Marcus's "Rhinos" was another brilliant Irish short. For me, Brendan Muldowney and Ivan Kavanagh are two talents who really stand out for their honesty and total dedication to film making. They both have, in very different ways, this ability to explore very dark themes- and tackle that grey area, in such a human and honest way. I admire that honesty. I will never forget the way the "The Fading Light" touched people, there was half the cinema crying because the truth of the story hit them in such a powerful and real way. The same respect goes to Muldowney, for being so capable for taking on such a disturbing subject matter, and making it so human and honest. They both also write really strong characters for females.
Becoming a more and more common name in Irish film, where do you see yourself in say, 5 or 10 years?
At the moment I am finishing my first screenplay, so I am interested in directing some of my own projects hopefully, I also am going to remain focused on acting and hope to get signed in the next few months in UK for more international films. I have been published as a journalist in various magazines, newspapers and international websites, so I see myself doing more work as a columnist journalist too. I'm really passionate about art, travelling and nutrition so I hope to really educate myself more in those three fields over the next few years, see more of the world, just expand my knowledge and grow as a person.
What would be your dream project?
To be really honest I get pretty excited and obsessed with all the projects I get, so it is all the dream! I have a huge interest in history, so if I am honest it would be a dream for me to play characters in another era in time- specifically the Belle Epoque era in France or Belgium, the art and glamour against this very strong political shift, or even to go back to Famine times in Ireland and have to do research for that sort of constant struggle. I am also one of these people who is constantly reading biographies of interesting female figures throughout history, I have bookshelves of bios, and Lucia Joyce is my dream character to tackle. She was a patient of Jung, a lover of Beckett, a daughter of Joyce, and a dancer is Paris- I think there is plenty of complexities to explore there.